When was America born? Was it when Jamestown was settled in 1607? When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620? When the 13 colonies won the War of Independence from Great Britain in 1781? Today, revisionist historians and new progressive models claim that America was born when African slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619. While the American slave trade was tragic, immoral, and a grave human rights violation, it is inaccurate to say that the United States of America was founded on slavery.
Independence Day is the appropriate day to celebrate America's birthday because it was on this day that the final text of the Declaration of Independence, the document outlining our nation's ideals and aspirations, was approved by the Continental Congress (the actual signing would come a month later). Alarmingly, the historic belief about America's founding on July 4, 1776, is currently under assault by liberal elites, including those behind the 1619 Project.
The 1619 Project was first publicly proposed in a New York Times article in August 2019 and has since been discussed in other outlets such as The Atlantic and various media networks. The original article has been developed into a podcast, written into a high school curriculum, and published as a book. The Project alleges that slavery is at the root of America's founding, and that all her political, social, and economic structures are inherently racist.
While it is true that slavery is a dark stain on America's history, the institution of slavery is not what animated America's Founders or what inspired them to break free from Great Britain, which was heavily involved in the slave trade itself. Like every nation in the history of the world, America is imperfect in her history, politics, and structures. However, despite being an imperfect country, America is and has been one of the greatest forces for good throughout history.
For example, America is the only country to have ended slavery in fewer than 100 years after its founding. By comparison, it took the United Kingdom nearly 900 years to abolish slavery after its founding, and other countries like India, North Korea, Uzbekistan, and Libya, still practice some form of slavery today. In addition, America led the effort to liberate Europe during World War II, helping to restore world peace and prosperity. In 2019 alone, the United States gave over $47 billion in aid to alleviate poverty around the world.
America's extraordinary contributions to the cause of freedom flow from the ideals set forth by the Declaration of Independence. As Jefferson movingly wrote: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." These beliefs animated the Founding Fathers and inspired the patriots who fought in the War of Independence. Thus, it is fitting to mark America's birthday on July 4th, not just because it commemorates our nation's independence, but because it is when the Founders clearly articulated that the United States would stand for freedom and human rights.
Today, fewer people view patriotism as a virtue, implying that our nation's faults mean we cannot celebrate or be proud of its accomplishments. However, although we should acknowledge our nation's faults and seek to improve them, we do not need to apologize for our nation herself. America is not perfect, but we can still be proud of her and what she has done well. It is good to take pride in your country and love the nation in which you live. Loving your country for the areas in which it has succeeded is healthy and promotes a spirit of unity.
Christians are commanded to love our neighbors, including those in our communities. Like the ancient Israelites, we should seek the welfare of those we live amongst (Jer. 29:7). This includes working to advance the Founder's vision of a "more perfect union" in our spheres of influence. Ultimately, for Christians, our citizenship is in the kingdom of heaven (Phil. 3:20), but while we sojourn as "strangers and exiles" in this world, we must also be good citizens of the earthly places in which God has situated us (1 Tim. 2:1-3, 2 Pet. 2:17). Responsible citizenship and biblical love for our neighbors coincide with doing everything we can to advance the values of freedom and human dignity championed by the patriots who founded this nation.
Seeking America's welfare today includes showing patriotism and supporting our nation's founding values and rights that are enumerated and protected under its founding documents. Let us view our American heritage with honesty, respect, and pride. America's birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence, says "July 4, 1776." We should be proud to be Americans and celebrate our nation's birthday with gratitude.
As we celebrate our independence as a nation, we must first acknowledge our dependence on God. We pray you will join with other believers this weekend for worship, prayer, and time in God's Word. For those in the Baton Rouge area, I will be preaching the 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. services this Sunday, July 4 at Jefferson Baptist Church. And for our friends in Southern California, Dr. Kenyn Cureton, FRC's Vice President for Christian Resources, will be preaching the 7:15 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 12:00 p.m. services at Calvary Chapel Chino Hills. We would love to see you in person or online!